New Utopias

How Shall We Then Live?



Welcome to New Utopias

Although traditional concert life has slowly started to resume, my own website www.graham-lack.com will continue to redirect to a blog that is called New Utopias and to which I would like to invite contributors.

The new site is intended as a rhetorical and philosophical discourse on how we have lived to date, and how we will need to live in the future.

There are no strict guidelines, other than to say that the normal rules of a civil world society apply. Contributions to graham.lack@t-online.de will be read before being posted, but no real need to moderate is expected. Comment function is not enabled; the blog is meant as food for thought.

Graham

Haiku

Saved by the sea, as
Feathered stalks of rice emerge,
For the tide has turned.

The haiku references the Spanish chef Ángel León, known as "el Chef del Mar", and who is currently involved in a project to explore the culinary uses of Eelgrass, or Zostera marina.

Haiku

Our forests silent,
Algal bloom our oceans green;   
The safety net shrinks.

The text references a recent UN report that warns one million species are in danger of extinction. Insects no longer populate forested areas.Toxic algae turn waters to slime and poison entire fish stocks.   

The Milkmaid and Her Pail

Our car has been in mothballs for months. So it was something of a novelty to sit behind the wheel once again. What struck me was the number of electric vehicles (EVs) now on the road here in Germany. My thoughts turned to carbon emissions from these cars. Does a shift to batteries make them entirely green? Well, not at first it seems.

Although EVs when actually on the road have a net-negative impact on carbon emissions, their production remains quite carbon intensive. The manufacturing process of an electric car battery weighing more than 500kg leads to the emission of ca. 70% more CO2 than during that of a conventional vehicle. Added to which, these new cars need to be driven for some 50,000km before a lifetime emission is lower than that of a conventional one.

There is a nice and commonly used expression in German: "eine Milkmädchenrechnung". It is derived from the tale by Aesop "The Milkmaid and Her Pail". It recounts how a milkmaid had been out to milk the cows and was returning from the field with the shining milk pail balanced nicely on her head. As she walked along, her pretty head was busy with plans for the days to come. We know how the story ended. The numbers on the bill (= Rechnung) did not add up.  

More anon . . .

Three Haikus

As deaths outstrip births,
Lower the new dead, but first
Raise that sprouting corpse.

This new roof on a
Millennium of oaks, for
The faith of the few.

Orange the night sky,
The soul escapes the body
As the iron melts.
The first Haiku pertains to the rates of births and deaths in Brazil during the Corona pandemic as of early April 2021, and the fact that bodies were being exhumed to make place for new cadavers. The reference to the "sprouting corpse" is to T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land". The second Haiku references the restoration of Notre Dame in Paris, which calls for one thousand ancient oak trees to be felled. As for the third, it tells the story of Covid deaths in India in late April 2021, acknowledging the Hindu belief that cremation frees the spirit from the human form and how the heat of the grills used deforms the metal.    


Two Haikus

The Amazon gasps 
As scofflaws fell the verdant 
Cathedrals of green

Scorched brown hills of logs. 
Trees topple and surrender
To flame and iron.

The first haiku references the Covid-19 emergency in Manaus, a jungle-flanked city reachable only by plane or boat, where hospitals ran out of oxygen. The second describes a Dantesque scenario, as pristine Amazon rain forest is cleared for new settlements, leading to an even greater proximity between humans and animals.






The Cave of Trophonius

Our lives have been transformed since the SARS-CoV-2 virus took centre stage and enormous repercussions have already been felt throughout urban life. But this is a unique chance for urban architects to shape a new future for cities around the world. The sweeping changes we have experienced across social, economic and political spheres would have been considered unthinkable about one year ago. The very fabric of society has changed as so many of us experience social isolation and just what it means to study or work from home. Following astutely an unprecedented daily scientific briefing by governments worldwide just adds to the stress. Admittedly, many emergency measures will be scaled back as the infection curves flatten, but others will surely remain in place. Period.

Many city dwellers who can afford to do so have fled larger conurbations for the countryside in an attempt to maintain social distancing. In London an estimated 250,000 people have left; that is almost 3% of the capital’s population. Now, although various prophylactic measures introduced in lockdowns the world over have challenged the very essence of city life, these open the way for to realise aspirations held by urban designers and planners. In normal times, a public space is there to facilitate congregation; in normal times we espouse the importance of public transport; and in normal times local high streets are championed as vibrant marketplaces. The crisis has rapidly hastened the online migration of retail and left the future of high streets distinctly uncertain.

We are at a tipping point, and must seize this opportunity to catalyse positive change in our built environment. Here in Germany, inner cities are facing “a triple tsunami” that means “structural change in retail, digitalisation and the corona pandemic”, says Boris Hedde, Head of the Cologne Institute for Retail Research. And the fashion industry in particular is experiencing a massive rupture. It might sound callous to note that this might bring positive outcomes for “Lebensraum”, loosely translatable as our habitat in the built environment. Like many British cites, it is hard to know in which high street one is actually standing: the shops are almost entirely chain stores. We know the culprits, and there is no need to list them here. In a nutshell: many high street brands are struggling. Some plan to close around half of their stores nationwide as part of restructuring efforts.

Many high street stores were already struggling before the pandemic, having faced considerable pressure from online retail and fast-fashion outlets. It is as if the coronavirus hit those units with pre-existing conditions, so to speak. Many department stores find themselves empty, and the decline of the city centre now poses serious problems. Although history demonstrates just how hard it is to lend old premises a new use, they surely still hold a certain kind of attraction for new tenants.

So, as the world continues to move online, we are afforded the opportunity, nay luxury, to turn previously traffic-jammed thoroughfares into green and pleasant garden streets.

More in another article.




 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

 

Haiku

Land is rent from sea;
The beach cedes each red mien from
Stiff black planted limbs.


The poem references the tribute to COVID-19 victims in Brazil as, in early August 2020, fatalities passed the 100,000 mark, and the nongovernmental group Rio de Paz placed 100 black wooden crosses in the sand of the famed Copacabana beach and released 1,000 red balloons into the sky.



Being and Doing: Chamber Music as a Social Contract

By Amadeus Templeton
Guest author

Is everyone an artist? This question is fundamental in that it inculcates individual responsibility, and furthermore delineates an image of humankind, acts as a definition of art, and provides scope for action. This question can, however, only be considered, dealt with, and answered together. 

Take the example of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). Here, science is searching for the elementary particle in order to study the smallest components of matter itself. 

If we now look at TONALiSTEN (a new organisation for cultural innovation), we glimpse how the artistic community seeks to tease out the creative force in every individual, for the “future of humanity” can only come about if this creative force is released. TONALiSTEN sees itself as at the epicentre of where people from the most diverse fields might work together to discover the answer to the initial question, share individual insights, and open up specific areas for activity. 

By way of transferal thinking, this form of collaborative research, a focused seeking for artistic relevance in a heterogeneous and transculturally shaped society, is particularly well illustrated by the phenomenon of chamber music. 

But this form of music-making is only successful where all participants have the best possible command of their own parts, where they have penetrated and got to the very heart of the function and meaning of their different voices (down to the smallest detail), and where they devote themselves to the success of the whole by skilfully integrating their individual voices into the final sound of the complete score in real time. 

Adeptness of one’s own part presupposes an acquired creative ability, an artistic soul, unstinting practice, a differentiated preoccupation with the score, the thematic material of the work, and the composer’s persona, as well as with the time in which the piece was written. 

On the occasion of the first rehearsal, participants share their understanding of the score that is finally to be delivered, develop an approach that is both conceptual and aesthetic, agree on a working method, generate a common musical language, and aurally imagine the concert in which the work is to be performed on a certain day with the participation of a specific audience. 

A communal musical language can only be engendered where the theory of harmony is used artistically, where all players understand exactly and at every moment exactly what colour and structure any note in a chord should take, and where the preceding and continuing connections to a musical moment in time are crystal clear. That is not all: a common musical language needs to be based not only harmonical relationships, but also absorb the parameters of rhythm, agogic accents, as well as phrasing. Taken on its own, each field requires the same understanding and situational complete skill as described here using the example of harmony. 

In concert, a great moment can come to pass. This defining glory corresponds to that of our experience of freedom. Not only everything but also the resultant all grows out of and hence beyond itself. It is not the musicians who play, but the “it” that plays. Thence does music become “materialised” by the work that took place in rehearsal, and this great moment can realise “spiritual potential” in us and all. Whoever experiences this as a fully sentient individual or – this in the sense of received wisdom – as someone in the line of immediate reception, knows intuitively that the human being generally, and indeed all human beings are capable of these great things, of these great moments that they hold at their disposition. 

If our approach to the answer demanded by the initial question is cast in the vein of chamber music, it becomes clear what conclusions can be drawn from music-making itself: first, a community, i.e. society, can only develop where individuals actively school themselves; simultaneously, secondly, each person must be ready to contribute in a compelling and holistic manner, thus giving rise to a sense of sounding and resounding together. 

Let us make it clear that this kind of sonic communion in no way corresponds to an opportunistic playing along. It is not a type of synchronous or, indeed, synchronized activity that will metamorphose into an artistic musical language; rather, it there is a need to act in the sense of carrying out the demands of a score, of contradicting the other voices if necessary, of agreeing with them, and actually becoming a rhythmic framework, a structure, an accent, or a prominent melody or theme. 

The permanent readiness to transform one’s own actions in the service of a superordinate statement, which at the same time carries within it the quality of an empathically open question, corresponds to an interplay of forces that signify “futurity”. 

Of course, the ego is necessary where it becomes the instrument of a sociality. The ego becomes a sociality where it reflects on its creative potential, trains this, and is ready to share everything that has now become ability. 

Thus, it is not self-referentiality that validates the person, but the willingness to make sacrifices, which are carried out through the artistic actions an individual. Such artistic activity succeeds where the person has become comprehensively part of a present state, where that individual inspires personal decisions subordinate to the common interest, where that person can imagine future consequences and can inculcate empathy in the sense of acting as a sounding board. 


Amadeus Templeton is a cellist and cultural manager as well as Managing Partner of TONALi gGmbH and TONALiSTEN gGmbH.








Haiku

Stigmatised corpses
Rejected by graveyards are
Swallowed by the sand. 

The poem references recent press reports that most Coronavirus victims in Iraq were not allowed burials that accord to Islamic custom, as many graveyards refused to receive the bodies. The traditional graveyards, whether those designated for the Shiite community in Najaf or the Sunni sect in Diyala, do not allow for the burial of COVID-19 casualties. Also, families of those who died fear being exposed to the virus and believe they might transmit it to others. Vast new cities for the dead have arisen in the desert in recent months.